I Go With the Flow to Make a Living
The hairdressing business could be considered one with ridiculous profit margins. A lot of business owners sell low-cost hair care products at prices more than ten times higher than their actual cost, and then recommend that their customers get membership cards, ostensibly for the sake of getting discounts, which guarantees them a flow of customers. Some hair salons even add on additional services, like sexual services under the guise of a “massage,” earning ill-gotten gains. These kinds of tactics to cheat customers really do keep the money pouring in. However, I operated my business according to my conscience, and ever since the very first day my salon was open, I did very honest business on the tenets of dealing with every single person straightforwardly and selling things at fixed prices. I never cheated customers. I also put real effort into every single haircut I did, plus my prices were lower than other hairdressers’. I got a lot of return customers that way.
I was working day and night, but after a year, I was only left with 2,000 yuan after paying rent, business expenses, utilities, heating, etc. I also saw that there were a few salons across the street that didn’t have as much business as I did, but they made several times what I did. I was really envious, but I knew very clearly that they were ill-gotten gains. I didn’t want to ignore my conscience in doing business. As the old saying goes, “poor but proud.” No matter how poor I was, I felt I couldn’t lose my dignity and character. So, I continued on doing business with integrity as I had before. Three years later, other hairdressers who had opened up shop at the same time as me had all upgraded to larger shops and some had even gone into doing big business or had bought a car. But everything for me was just like it had been three years prior; my life was the same as it had been, and my wallet hadn’t gotten any fatter.
One day, my mom became ill and had to stay at the hospital—treatment alone was really expensive. I scraped together and borrowed as much money as I could, but still only had enough for half of her medical bill. Thinking of how much money I had borrowed and how I had no idea when I’d be able to pay it back made me a bit anxious. Just then a friend of mine came to my salon to hang out, and when she learned about my situation said to me, “Other salon owners size up their customers, fawn on and flatter them. They get taken in, and then they’re happy to spend more money. They can earn tens of thousands in just a year by doing that. But all you earn is a little bit for your services and you don’t say nice-sounding things to them and then bump up product prices. Earning money that way, who knows when you’ll be able to pay off your debts….” Hearing her go on about that stirred something within me. Right after I had seen her off a hairdresser from across the way came by, and the second she stepped in said sarcastically, “You’re really so good at running this salon! Business is good and you have a great reputation, it’s just it’s not very profitable. You seem to want to make yourself a modern-day Mother Theresa. You have so many customers—if it were me, I would have gotten rich ages ago. How many times have I told you? In business you have to think of special methods, some tactics. When are you going to get it? Running a business this way, you’ll die of exhaustion before earning much money!” With that, she just left. After hearing what she and my friend had to say, I felt like I had been kicked in the gut.
That night I lay in bed tossing and turning, unable to sleep. The words of my friend and that hairdresser were echoing inside my head and I was locked in an internal battle. “It’s true, I do business totally honestly, so when will I earn some money? Like they say, ‘Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing.’ It doesn’t matter how good you are if you don’t have any money! And now I need to pay for my mom’s treatment plus pay back my debts—all of that takes money. Maybe I should raise my prices a bit, and whenever someone with money comes in I can charge them a higher price? Anyway, some of them are pretty free with their money and they don’t care how much it costs as long as they like their hairstyle. Besides, isn’t that what everyone else is doing? Doing that would be totally understandable….” I thought and I thought, and decided to let go of the integrity I’d upheld for three years and start trying it out on wealthier customers.
Following Evil Trends, I Lost My Conscience
Midday the following day, a customer came in who wanted her hair permed. I saw that she was dressed really nicely and looked quite well-off, so I thought I’d charge her a little more. When I was done, she asked me how much it was. Normally I would charge 120 yuan, but that time I said 200. I was really nervous after saying that, and my heart wouldn’t stop thudding. I didn’t dare look at her face, afraid that she’d see that I had bumped the price up. She just readily handed over the money and as she was leaving, said, “You’re really skilled. I love the new style you gave me with this perm—it’s worth any amount of money. I’m going to recommend to my colleagues and friends that they come here to get their hair done.” After she left I felt unsettled for quite a while. I thought of how much she trusted me, but I had cheated her. I felt like I had violated my conscience. But when I saw that I had earned more money than before I felt satisfied with it and that the money would come in much faster that way. Faced with those pangs of conscience, all I could do was stuff that guilt deep down in my heart.
From that day forward, I just single-mindedly focused on how to earn more money. Whenever I saw a well-off customer come in I’d welcome them, full of smiles, and warmly greet them, and I’d recommend some particular services and products. One time a customer said that she wanted to get her hair washed and styled, and I thought, “A hair wash is less than 10 yuan, that’s not enough. I need to find a trick to get more money than that.” So I told her, “Your hair is too dry. If you don’t start taking care of it soon you’ll start losing a lot of hair, and hair is like a second face for women. If you develop issues with your hair, it’ll be too late for regrets.” I made some recommendations which had an effect on her; she spent 300 yuan on a set of anti-hair loss nourishing products and became a long-term customer for hair care. I felt a little uneasy after she left and thought, “I have the money in my hands, but I don’t even know how effective that product is. If I talk up products this way, what will I do if she doesn’t get a good result and comes back to start some trouble?” But worrying can’t accomplish anything and the product had already been sold, so there was nothing to be done about it.
Then a few days after that, I sold a 25-yuan bottle of shampoo to a customer who wanted something for her dandruff for 68 yuan, and she thanked me over and over. I had never imagined it was so easy to earn money—no wonder other hairdressers had gotten rich so long ago. Even though I thought that doing business with lies and cheating wasn’t moral, the money was coming in fast and I would be a person of means in no time. Plus, now there was a source for my mom’s medical expenses. When I thought of all that, the uneasiness in my heart gradually disappeared and I became even more certain that only relying on lies and cheating in business could earn any money.
To my surprise, that customer who I had recommended regular haircare to came back to the store to complain. She said that she’d been using the product for more than a month but her hair hadn’t gotten thicker, and on the contrary, it had continued to get thinner. I was afraid she’d demand a refund and no longer get any care, and that money I had gotten would be gone. Plus her saying that could have an impact on other customers using that product. I rushed to say something to smooth things over. “I can see that your hair seems to have gotten much better lately. Anyway, it takes a long time for hair to grow out. There are some customers who keep doing it for a year or more before their hair slowly starts to get thicker. It’s just like treating a disease—you have to take it slowly.” Hearing me say that, she no longer complained, and kept coming to the salon as usual for hair treatments.
Several years passed in the blink of an eye. I had earned some money, all my debts were paid off, and I had even bought a house and a car. I didn’t know why, but I was just never happy. I always felt guilty toward my customers and didn’t have any sense of peace. The old saying goes, “God can see every little thing that we do.” How could my conscience be at rest when I was cheating customers that way? I really wanted to go back to the way things were before, facing each and every customer with true integrity, no need to lie or cheat, and I particularly didn’t need to rack my brains to cover things up and lie. Even though I wasn’t earning much money, I was at ease, at peace, and it wasn’t such a tiring way to live. But by then, it was as if I had a gambling addiction—living in a world of lies, I wanted to stop but was powerless to do so. The emptiness in my heart and the uneasiness in my conscience often left me sleepless, but I also wasn’t willing to go back to my old way of doing business. I felt very conflicted and really didn’t know how to escape from that life of suffering.
Accepting the Gospel and First Tasting the Sweetness of God’s Words
Where man ends is where God begins. Just as I was struggling painfully, caught in a mire of sin, a friend shared God’s gospel of the last days with me. She told me that God’s words are all the truth and that they can resolve all of our difficulties, that they can treat the suffering within our souls. She later took me to the church, where I saw that the brothers and sisters were all really genuine, and no matter who had a confusion or a difficulty, they would find words of God for fellowship and resolution. And when there was friction between people, they were all really simple and open; they would communicate with each other. Nobody was hiding things. There weren’t any prejudices or barriers between people. All the brothers and sisters in the church conducted themselves according to God’s words—they had the work and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and were in completely different circumstances than people in the outside world. I integrated into the life of the church very quickly, attending gatherings and reading God’s words with everyone, singing hymns and praising God. I felt incredibly at ease and at peace—that kind of spiritual peace is something that money absolutely cannot buy. I saw hope in life and set my resolve to practice my faith well.
In a gathering, I read the following passage: “You ought to know that God likes those who are honest. In essence, God is faithful, and so His words can always be trusted; His actions, furthermore, are faultless and unquestionable, which is why God likes those who are absolutely honest with Him. Honesty means giving your heart to God, being genuine with God in all things, being open with Him in all things, never hiding the facts, not trying to deceive those above and below you, and not doing things only to curry favor with God. In short, to be honest is to be pure in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man” (“Three Admonitions”). Mulling over God’s words, I saw that God is faithful; He likes honest people and detests deceitful people. We have to be honest people according to God’s requirements: Call a spade a spade, not play tricks or engage in cheating, and be completely frank. That’s the only way to gain God’s approval. I then thought of how the brothers and sisters are generally simple, open, and work at being honest people; they are practical and realistic in their words and deeds, and don’t engage in cheating. Even though there are times that they protect their own face or status, or tell a lie, they’re all able to reflect upon and know themselves, and after that they practice being clear and opening themselves up in accordance with God’s words. Their lives are really free and relaxing and their faces are often full of happy smiles. It’s really enviable. After understanding all of this I also wanted to become an honest person, to be someone who brings God joy, and to live with a conscience that is at ease and at peace. But then I thought about how I’m a businesswoman, and in this materialistic society where money is valued above all else, doing business honestly not only means you can’t earn money, but will be taken for a fool by others—there’s just no way to keep a foothold in this society like that. But I knew that if I continued to lie and cheat, even if I could cheat people, I could never cheat God—God sees into the depths of our hearts and He knows all of our thoughts. I had already accepted God’s salvation, so if I didn’t become an honest person according to what He requires but continued to play tricks in my business, wouldn’t that be disgusting to God? I thought and I thought, and ultimately decided that in my future business dealings I would act according to God’s words and practice being an honest person.
One day when I was cutting a customer’s hair, she asked me, “Do you think my hair is dry? If it is, give me a hot nourishing oil treatment while I’m here.” I thought, “I can only make ten yuan from a haircut, but an oil treatment would mean at least another hundred. The customer herself asked for it—I certainly wasn’t pushing anything extra on her to get more money out of her. That doesn’t count as cheating, right?” I took another look at her hair and saw that it wasn’t dry at all and didn’t need an oil treatment, but if I were honest and told her the truth, she definitely wouldn’t want to have it done and I’d hardly make anything. Just as I was feeling at a loss, these words of God occurred to me: “To be honest is to be pure in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man” (“Three Admonitions”). God’s words gave me a timely reminder that honest people seek the truth from facts in their words and deeds: One is one, and two is two. Whether it’s in front of God or in front of others, they don’t deceive or cheat, and only that kind of behavior is in line with God’s will. Since I wanted to be an honest person, I should accept God’s scrutiny and tell the truth. So, I told the customer frankly, “Your hair isn’t dry. Don’t waste your money.” She responded, surprised, “I never would have thought that a business owner would have such professional courtesy. There really aren’t enough people like you anymore. I’m definitely going to send everyone in my family here to get their hair done.” Hearing this was really exciting for me—I thanked God over and over. I was surprised that the first time I acted as an honest person I’d get that acknowledgement from a customer. Being an honest person truly is sweet.
In the days that followed, I did my best to be an honest person in accordance with God’s requirements, and before I knew it, I had less and less of that feeling of unease, and I was no longer worried that someone would come back to the store, upset. I slept soundly every night.
To Be Continued …
Part Two: A Hairdresser’s Testimony: Doing Business With Integrity, She Gained God’s Blessings (II)